Q&A: How ECRM is keeping the industry connected

David Salazar
Managing Editor
David Salazar profile picture
Greg Farrar, CEO, ECRM

The COVID-19 pandemic has upset many business models, none more so than ECRM, which has run successful face-to-face meetings between retailers and suppliers for decades. Now, the Cleveland-based company is changing its methods to keep the industry in touch with each other. Drug Store News sat down with ECRM CEO Greg Farrar to discuss the steps the company is taking during these trying times.

Drug Store News: With so many events postponed or cancelled, it must be extremely difficult for ECRM at this point. What is the company doing to ensure that retailers and suppliers stay in touch during this pandemic?
Greg Farrar:
Helping retailers and suppliers not only stay in touch, but purposefully interact and conduct commerce, is the core business of ECRM. We see ourselves as a business process solutions provider — a consultative partner to our retailer and supplier clients. This higher level of engagement allowed us to quickly adapt to changes in the marketplace brought on by this pandemic. 

It was this customer-centric approach that propelled us to expand our offering to include a state-of-the-art digital component, satisfying the needs of the buyers and suppliers as trade events, travel and face-to-face meetings could no longer occur. 

We quickly enhanced our category programs to include Efficient Supplier Introductions and, most recently, Virtual Sessions — all in an effort to continue serving our clients’ needs.

DSN: Tell us more about these digital programs and how they work.
Efficient Supplier Introductions are category-specific, one-to-many virtual meetings in which suppliers can make a 10-minute presentation to a panel of up to 25 buyers. These launched in early April and, within a two-week span, we had more than 1,000 buyers register across the 80 events, with enormously enthusiastic feedback from all involved.

We took great pride in creating a very robust user experience that includes all the functionality you would expect from a virtual meeting platform.

Based on client feedback, it was clear that buyers and suppliers also wanted the opportunity to meet one-on-one as they do at our in-person sessions, so we expanded our technology to accommodate virtual face-to-face meetings. 

Our clients should expect a very similar experience, with the most notable change being the venue, which will now be on a custom virtual platform instead of in a hotel. We took great pride in creating a very robust user experience that includes all the functionality you would expect from a virtual meeting platform. Plus, additional features specific to our clients’ needs, combined with our high-touch client success team that works closely with our buyers and suppliers to curate a schedule of relevant appointments by matching buyer needs and objectives with suppliers’ products and capabilities.

DSN: So how do clients get best prepared for these sessions?
The key is working as closely as possible with their dedicated client success manager. They are the front lines in ensuring that everyone is fully prepared beforehand and are on hand for anything they may need during the meetings, and ensure an optimal experience for our buyers and sellers that will help drive growth.   

DSN: How can ECRM help them make sure that they are ready to go?
Practice makes perfect. Our client success team works directly with each buyer and supplier participant to review the technology in advance of the sessions, including test runs of the platform on their computers. They also provide resources and guidance around delivering successful virtual presentations.    

DSN: When the crisis subsides, what will be your plans in terms of rolling out your traditional programs?
The pandemic has without a doubt brought virtual meetings into the mainstream, and the expectations around them means that the demand for virtual is not going to disappear once the pandemic does. Moving forward, they will remain an integral part of our offerings. By extending our services to include virtual meetings, along with the in-person meetings and RangeMe, we’re now able to serve our customers whenever, wherever and however will best fulfill their needs.